There are certain restaurants that you bump into as an adult and know you would’ve loved them as a kid: Trader Vic’s in L.A., Peter Luger in New York, and any Brazilian Churrascaria anywhere come to mind (the swords, fire, and limitless meat help with the last one). Add to that list The Trails, a little snack stand on Fern Dell in Griffith Park. I’d heard about it, what, two years ago? after some guys took over a formerly run of the mill snack stand and started serving up quality baked goods, quiche, vegetarian sandwiches and the like, and it’s taken me this long to get there with the kids (these days two years seems to be the average time between noting something and eventually getting around to checking it out).
It’s the cozy rustic sort of place you half expect squirrels to be working in, set just off the road, under trees, on the Western end of Griffith Park. Half the enchantment is the site. “Look, Dad, the woods!” exclaimed my five year old, pointing to a stand of some 7 or so trees sprouting out of the edge of a dusty lot. While not the deep forest, you are surrounded by a heck of a lot more wilderness than the ivy at, well, the Ivy (Griffith Park is the largest urban park in the nation, after all). We ordered classic PB and J for the kids (on floppy white bread; the kind of white bread I dreamed of my whole wheat-pushing parents letting me have as a child. Not wonderbread by any stretch, but that soft country white that sandwiches in black and white movies seem to be made on), a tomato tart (was it goat cheese? roasted tomato, some spicy pepper, and flaky crust), a southwestern quiche (not sure what southwestern about it; but it was rich and eggy, like a deep dish spanish potato tortilla with cheese and roasted tomato), a hot dog on a stick rolled in pastry crust (there’s a lot of pastry crust here), a simple salad, a satisfying pumpkin scone with a grainy, sorta dry but tasty hippie vibe, and sturdy coffee. Other families with young kids and a couple of couples and a lone cyclist all lunched beneath the trees at picnic tables. A lizard scampered on nearby tree trunks the kids played on while we waited. It was all lovely and bucolic and relaxing. We finished up and together hiked a hundred yards or so toward the Griffith Park Observatory before turning back to the car and heading home.
Rating: 3 Gs (out of a possible 4)
The Trails Cafe, 2333 Fern Dell Drive, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, (323) 871-2102, hours: 9-5 tuesday through sunday
Kid favorites: PB and J, pumpkin scone
Grownup favorites: Tomato Tart
Service: friendly, relaxed, slow, minimal; as it should be on the edge of the urban woods